Leasing group Amedeo has agreed to buy 200 of the 19-seat, hybrid-electric aircraft being developed by French start-up Aura Aero. Under a letter of intent announced on October 19, the Ireland-based asset-management company has entered a strategic partnership to support the development of the Electric Regional Aircraft (ERA), which is expected to be ready to enter commercial service in 2026 and to offer a range of around 900 miles.
Toulouse-based Aura Aero says it is on track for a first flight in 2022 of its smaller all-electric Integral E light aircraft, which it is marketing to flight training schools and aerobatic clubs. The company sees the smaller aircraft as a technological step toward developing the larger ERA model and Amedeo says it is will seek to market it to the training departments of major airlines.
“We are very pleased to be partnered with Aura Aero in leading such an important climate-supporting initiative,” said Amedeo chief commercial officer Gabriella Lapidus. “For Amedeo, sustainable aviation is more than aspirational, and we are committed and focused on partnerships in sustainable aviation that will define the next three decades in aerospace. We have seen various concepts in the market and Aura Aero has an edge with the skill set, talent, and design that we stand behind.”
Amedeo has not disclosed the commercial terms of the letter of intent, but Lapidus told FutureFlight that the companies have "exchanged significant value." The company says it will support Aura Aero in marketing both the ERA and the Integral E to airlines. Currently, it manages a portfolio of 39 Airbus and Boeing widebody airliners valued at over $7 billion and including a mix of A380s, A330s, A350s, 777s, and 747 freighters.
According to Lapidus, the ERA is effectively a replacement for aging 19-seat turboprop aircraft like the Beechcraft 1900. Amedeo feels that the electric aircraft could make an economic case for launching low-capacity scheduled services to smaller communities that cannot support larger models.
Aura Aero, which earlier this year opened a 38,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility in a former French air force hangar near Toulouse, says that it already holds orders for 50 examples of the two-seat Integral. The company has been developing three versions of the aircraft, with the R and S models also expected to make their first flights in 2022.
The ERA prototype should be ready to start flight testing in 2024. Early concept drawings show a design with six sets of propellers on the wings. Aura Aero has not provided any information about the proposed propulsion system or who its key suppliers might be, apart from announcing a March agreement with battery maker Verkor.